Thoughts on the Covid Pandemic of 2020 - 2021
Will Smith as "Jay": "Why the big secret? People are smart, they can
Tommy Lee Jones as "Kay": "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it."
-- from the 1997 movie: "Men in Black"
These my own personal notes and thoughts of what occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic from my perspective. I write it down so that I don't forget my perspective at the time. This page isn't to convince anybody of anything. This year has taught me I cannot influence either individuals or government policy, and I no longer want to try.
There are a variety of different things that were at play during this pandemic in 2020 - 2021, one of which is that a virus appeared called "SARS-CoV-2" that infected and killed many people which was a great tragedy. What also occurred was a spectacularly self destructive response in our society I've never before witnessed in my 53 years on this planet. A series of circumstances led people to make a bad situation much worse.
Timeline of Events:
Because this is from my perspective, and a large amount of my life is centered around the company I formed and worked at for 13 years leading up to the pandemic called Backblaze.
- 12/15/2019 - The "Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrom Coronavirus 2" or
"SARS-CoV-2" or "2019 Novel Coronavirus" or "COVID-19" virus is identified.
- 1/10/2020 - The company BioNTech began developing a vaccine based on mRNA technology that eventually becomes the Pfizer vaccine. Human trials began 2 months later in March, approved by FDA on December 11, 2020.
- 1/20/2020 - The company "Moderna" began developing a vaccine based on mRNA technology. Human trials began 2 months later in March of 2020, approved by the FDA on December 18, 2020.
- 1/30/2020 - The World Heath Organization (WHO) declares the outbreak an emergency
- 3/6/2020 - Backblaze employees all sent home, office is shut down for more than an entire year with 3 hours warning. That same day Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter did the same.
- 3/11/2020 - The WHO declares it a "pandemic"
- 12/11/2020 - The first vaccine is approved by the FDA (Pfizer). The second vaccine (Moderna) is approved 7 days later. The third vaccine (Johnson & Johnson) was approved on February 28, 2021.
- 1/28/2021 - The very first Backblaze employee receives first dose of a vaccine. He received "Moderna mRNA-1273".
- 2/13/2021 - The second Backblaze employee receives first dose of vaccine (Pfizer).
- 3/4/2021 - I receive my first dose. I'm Brian Wilson, Founder and CTO of Backblaze. Brian received the Pfizer vaccine. Click here for pictures, videos, explanation. (Texas)
- 3/5/2021 - The fourth Backblaze employee receives her first dose of vaccine. (California)
- 3/6/2021 - On the one year anniversary of the Backblaze San Mateo headquarters being closed, Brian suggests re-opening the San Mateo office for fully vaccinated employees to return IF THEY WANT TO RETURN. This was unanimously rejected, the office will stay locked forever, nobody is allowed to use it.
- 3/8/2021 - The fifth Backblaze employee receives his first dose. (Texas)
- 3/10/2021 - The sixth employee (another officer in the company) receives his SECOND dose. (California) He got his first dose 3 weeks earlier as part of "they have extra doses" got lucky situation.
- 3/10/2021 - The seventh employee receives her first dose. (California)
- 3/11/2021 - The eighth employee receives his first dose. (California)
- 3/12/2021 - The ninth employee receives his first dose. (Texas)
- 3/12/2021 - The tenth employee receives receives his first dose. (California)
- 3/13/2021 - The eleventh employee (Derman Uzunoglu) receives his first dose. Johnson and Johnson. (California)
- 3/13/2021 - The twelfth employee gets his first dose (Oklahoma)
- 3/15/2021 - The thirteenth employee gets first dose (Texas)
- 3/17/2021 - The fourteenth employee gets first dose (California - employee was in in Sacramento but made trek to Merced, second dose will be in Davis)
- 3/31/2021 - The fifteenth employee gets first dose (California)
Covid Deaths by Age in 2020:
In the chart below, it shows some numbers of Covid deaths sorted by age, and the total in 2020 of 329,000. The source is: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1191568/reported-deaths-from-covid-by-age-us/ and archived here if that link is dead or changes over time (the archive is the "Wayback Machine - The Internet Archive". There are 328 million people in the United States in total.
Most People are TERRIBLE at Evaluating Statistical Risk:
In psychology circles, there are a TON of studies that show human beings are terrible at evaluating risk. Abysmal. This is our reality. Here is one of many articles written well before Covid existed: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-inertia-trap/201303/why-are-people-bad-evaluating-risks I have also observed this all of my life.
A "cognitive bias" is a "systemic error" in the way humans think. It leads to irrational and incorrect decisions. There is a list of irrational biases here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases.
One particular mistake people make is that they evaluate "new risks" as much more serious as any risk "that we are accustomed to". As an engineer, I have some slightly autistic tendencies. One of those is that I don't seem to be as emotionally affected by the "new" threats as the average person. This has gotten me in SOCIAL trouble several times in my life. There is a concept in comedy called "too soon". Professional comedians cannot joke about tragedy that is "recent" because it hurts people's feelings. But once enough time has passed, the identical joke becomes "funny". Professional commedians can joke about Custer's Last Stand because it was so long ago. But the same comedians can't tell the same identical joke about a military operation in Iraq a week after it occurred. I'm not talking about jokes on this webpage, but that's the concept most people can grasp - recent events are too emotional and overwhelm people's logical abilities to calculate risk.
Another particular mistake most people make is that if they read about something in the news often, or talk about it often with others, their brains keep FALSELY raising the statistical level of the threat.
Another well know psychological bias is called "Loss Aversion". People are irrationally afraid of PERCEIVED risks, as compared with the real rewards of ignoring those risks. Here is one link about this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Risk_aversion_(psychology)#Societal_applications and another link here: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/prospect-theory/
Covid-19 was a perfect storm to be incorrectly assessed as a larger threat than it was by people because it was 1) recent, and 2) everybody talked about it everywhere all of the time, and 3) the perceived risk was very serious: death. One thing that elevated the risk in people's minds was seeing EVERYBODY wear a mask. I'm not saying masks were bad for preventing the spread of disease, but the fact that EVERYBODY was wearing a mask reminded us daily there was this new threat called Covid. To keep this forefront in our lizard brains: during the height of the pandemic, you could not read two mainstream news articles without at least one of them being about Covid. You couldn't read 3 Facebook or Twitter posts without one of them being about Covid. This pummeled our lizard brains with information saying, "Covid is the single most important issue, do anything to survive Covid."
Here is a chart of what people die of in the United States that I often look at, you can verify these statistics easily:
Heart Disease: 611,105 people per year (2/10th of 1% of the population - 186
out of 100,000)
Cancer: 584,881 people per year (2/10th of 1% of the population)
Hospital Error: 250,000 people per year - reference: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/05/03/476636183/death-certificates-undercount-toll-of-medical-errors
Chronic Respiratory Disease (smoking): 149,205 people per year (45 out of 100,000)
Accidents (unintentional injuries): 130,557 people per year
Stroke: 128,978 people per year
Influenza ("the flu"): 50,000 people per year on an average year, as high as 80,000 in a bad year like 2018. (15 out of 100,000)
Auto Accidents: 33,000 people per year (!!!!)
Gun SUICIDES: 21,175 people per year
Swimming Pool Drownings: 3,536 people per year (1 out of 100,000)
Gun accidentals: 700 people per year
Commercial Airplane Crashes: 32 people per year (0.01 out of 100,000)
Mass shootings: 28 people per year (0.008 out of 100,000 - basically "zero" out of 100,000)
If you asked people which they were more worried about: dying of a mass shooting or drowning, 99% of people would say "Mass Shooting" - and they are all dead wrong. Badly, horribly wrong. I believe this is because drownings are never national news. For whatever reason, EVERY mass shooting is read about and known by EVERY person in the United States, but when somebody drowns only the local friends and family know about it and grieve. Please don't freak out and think this is some argument against gun control, or in favor of "pool control" - that's missing the ENTIRE POINT of what I'm saying here. I'm saying people absolutely suck at evaluating statistical risk in their lives. We're only talking about Covid here.
Covid killed about 329,000 people in the United States in the worst year of 2020. That's bad. About the same as heart disease and cancer each killed in the previous year. And the population it killed were the same population as heart disease and cancer (older people). So if you were somebody older than say 60 years old in the year of Covid, this was a VERY REAL THREAT to you, and it was ON TOP OF your large chance of dying that was the "baseline" in a normal year.
However, in the long run of most people's lives of 78.54 years, Covid will disappear down into the range of 0.00002 out of 100,000. Yes it was a close call like that time you almost had a head on collision but swerved at the last second. Yes it was scary. But those of us that survive Covid and car crashes will live a very long time afterwards, and then die of Heart Disease or Cancer like most people in the USA do. And just like Heart Disease or Cancer, young people like 24 year olds never needed to worry at all, it was CLEARLY about in the range of dying in a commercial airline flight in 2020. I was 53 years old in 2020 - if I look at my risk of dying of Covid-19 in 2020 it was about the same as dying in a car crash on my way to work. In 2019 I drove to work 250 times and didn't think it was worth staying at home to avoid the risk. I decided to drive to work in 2019 because I chose the reward of getting paid over the risk of dying. I am using this example of driving to work, because in 2020 the government forced me to stay home from work because of this same risk. The government made the decision to damage my finances, damaged my friend's businesses, destroy people's life savings, destroy their lives and relationships over something about as dangerous to me as driving to work.
I know I won't ever convince even one person that "the two year long economic lockdown wasn't worth it". Their lizard brains just can't process the raw information: that faced with the identical risk in 2019 they accepted the risk of driving to work in order to make money - it was worth it. But in 2020 they were DEATHLY AFRAID of something the same risk to the point of ruining lives, causing suicides and depression. I know people will defensively try to defend the conclusions their irrational lizard brains - that's what people do. I do it, we all do it. People will rationalize this saying things like "driving is not contagious" (doesn't matter, that doesn't affect the outcome). But it's a rationalization trying desperately to defend a flawed conclusion.
Now, I'm not saying there is "one correct decision" when it comes to how much one individual wants to avoid one particular risk: I believe it is a highly personal choice. My problem comes in when somebody ELSE forces me into a decision to avoid a risk that I do not agree with, and that CLEARLY the mathematics and statistics show I shouldn't be forced into this bad decision. In this case, I'm talking about the individuals in government and my co-workers and friends forcing upon me (and other people) their irrational fears of Covid-19 not supported by the raw mathematical numbers. When other (flawed) people in government decide to close OTHER people's businesses, decimate OTHER people's life savings, destroy OTHER people's lives and relationships - that's where I have an issue.
People are profoundly terrible at estimating risks. This doesn't make their feelings invalid, it is just something to understand and take into account.
The Law of Unintended Consequences (or focusing too much
on one number):
Related to the above problem that people have trouble correctly evaluating risks is the law of unintended consequences. Everybody agrees that "all things being equal" it would be good to reduce deaths from Covid. The problem is all things are not equal.
If you only focus on reducing Covid deaths, you would lock everybody in a cage at least 100 feet from every other person until they went insane from lack of social interaction. After that, if you continue to only worry about Covid deaths, some of those people will commit suicide. The problem with focusing on one thing (Covid deaths) instead of taking a holistic approach towards the health of society is it leads to unintended consequences like suicides.
I bring up suicides just to try to get the point through, but it is absolutely the same identical error to simply focus on "maximize survival" of all things. Even if there weren't any suicides, a life locked in a cage is not worth living. It's hard for me to comprehend how other people's minds work, and that this isn't completely obvious: we do "risky" things all the time because they are fun. At some point in our lives, we engage in "fun" activities like we sky dive out of airplanes, we ride motorcycles, we drink alcohol, we have sex with people we just met, we order a diabetes inducing dessert in a restaurant. I know some neurotic people in software engineering that live their lives trying to extend their life to the maximum number of years by staying at home all the time, only eating the most healthy foods, never taking any risks, never ordering a dangerous dessert even once in 20 years. And I consider those people mentally ill and feel sorry for them. They will outlive me, but be miserable the entire time.
I'm not saying you should only eat dessert, and never avoid risk. I'm saying there is a balance. And in a Covid pandemic, that means balancing the risk of a supportive hug of a friend with the risk of dying from Covid.
During the pandemic, everybody lost their minds and focused ONLY on Covid deaths, and ignored that sometimes we want to do "fun" things that are risky.
The Moving Goalposts of Government Imposed Lockdowns:
One of the things that occurred during the pandemic was the government moved the goalposts around. Constantly. On March 16, California issued a "stay at home" order. This shutdown the economy and shut down many businesses and schools, there was a mantra: "Two Weeks to Flatten the Curve" or "15 Days to Flatten the Curve". The idea was the same number of people would get the disease, but if we just "flattened the curve" the health care system would not become overwhelmed. Here is one animation of the concept:
Pretty much everybody agreed that we could handle "two weeks" of economic shutdown, so this had widespread public support, and people ignored that the government just suspended an amazing number of constitutional rights. In everybody's minds (mine included), we accepted this because in two weeks the rights would be restored, no big deal.
Then the goalposts changed. The "two weeks to flatten the curve" morphed out to "do not re-open until Covid-19 is eradicated". Here is one article: https://www.wsj.com/articles/moving-the-shutdown-goal-posts-11587078025. Personally I believe this was accidental. A variety of things happened all at once. People got scared, all of the politicians on both sides tried to politicize and gain advantage through a public health issue, the media made TONS of extra money as everybody clicked on articles talking about Covid-19.
The Visciousness against People with Information or
Opinions that didn't agree with the Narrative:
A recurring theme I noticed early on was that if somebody like me said, "Hey guys, good news, children are not harmed by Covid very often" I was viciously attacked and ostracized. Initially I was confused by this, what kind of psychopath doesn't like good news? What kind of monster wants children to die? I learned to just stop explaining why it wasn't so bad - I wasn't convincing anybody, I lost friends, and the friends that remained thought I was unbalanced. The fact that I was factually correct, and proven in time to be correct did not help. To this day nobody has ever approached me and said, "you remember when I yelled at you and called you a Nazi? It turns out you were dead accurate, totally correct, and I'm sorry about being mean to you."
About half way through the first year of the pandemic I found some "Lockdown Skeptic" groups on the internet, and this was a universal experience. Repeat a fact that wasn't horrible like "the only good thing is it doesn't kill children very often" and the person saying it was shouted out of the room. There was something about "good news" that was bad, anti-social.
One particular version of this was mocking people viciously as "stupid" if the people wanted to retain one or more of their civil liberties like the right to assemble with others, or the ability to travel freely, or the right to operate your legal business the way you always had - as long as it didn't cause any harm, as long as it was only FULLY INFORMED consenting adults in a one on one setting like a haircut. People that wanted to retain their rights asked this question: at some low level of danger, is it so bad to retain SOME individual freedom and not hand over dictator level control with zero checks and balances to the (flawed) individuals in government? This question was met with ridicule and hatred. A common spelling ridiculing people who asked politely if they could still assemble one on one with other consenting adults was to say these hateful idiots wanted their "free-dumbs". Wow. Is it REALLY so bad to ask for something spelled out in the Bill of Rights? Something we used to be proud of? That certain rights are so profound, they are "inalienable"? This question was mocked and attacked as if it was OBVIOUS the government is always correct, the government always has our best interests at heart, that no individual in the government has ever been found to be corrupt and out for personal gain.
Personally, I take this truth to be self evident: it is NOT rare AT ALL that we find corrupt government officials that abuse their power. Asking politely to exercise your civil rights should not be mocked.
The Media Profiteered:
Another recurring theme I watched the entire year was that articles that promoted fear sold more copies, and the media couldn't be bothered with the truth, or their responsibility. This was so bad, and the effects on society were so dire, I honestly feel each journalist should be investigated and punished/sanctioned for their behavior if they KNEW what they were printing was implying untrue things and fanning the flames of panic and yet wrote it in a way to make it even worse just for "clicks". The term for this is "click bait" in my industry. Normally it's essentially harmless - an article with a title "You won't believe how beautiful these 10 women are" gets more clicks than "Here are 10 pictures of fashion models". So the industry is given a lot of leeway. In this case they contributed to TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS of loss. Loss of human life even.
Complicit in this were the large internet companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc that also gain revenue from these "click bait" fear mongering articles. In the second half of the pandemic, these large companies started actively censoring information that they deemed "untrue", which I have no issues with. They kicked certain people off their platforms for consistently lying like President Trump, and that probably contributed to stability and was arguably justified. But not one of these organizations stopped articles that fanned the flames of panic by presenting Covid as "unknown" and "more dangerous than any other form of disease we know about" even though none of that was factually true.
To be clear, I don't think there was any grand conspiracy. It was a random set of circumstances where Google and Twitter were highly aligned with the interests of the fear mongering journalists and profited from their half true articles. But make no mistake, Google and Twitter looked the other way in order to make more money, and allowed VAST misconceptions about science to stand uncontested on their platforms. And the more people heard Google and Twitter were fact checking, this had an unfortunate side effect of leading people to incorrect conclusions about how dangerous Covid-19 was to our society and to our people. Was Covid bad? Yes. Was Covid a great tragedy? Yes. Did Covid kill a whole lot of people? Yes. Should that excuse Google and Twitter letting incorrect statistics that inflated the numbers of deaths stand unopposed, not fact checked? No, it should not.
The Media Misrepresents What Scientists Say:
Another recurring theme I watched the entire year was that scientists and researchers would say things like, "We have studied Coronavirus in the past, and all the other variants after you get infected once you are generally immune from infection somewhere from 1 year to 3 years." Journalists would ask the scientists, "Are you absolutely sure it will be that way this time?" Scientists are very pedantic, and they would say, "No, we're not completely totally 100% rock solid sure, but we're pretty confident to 99.999% certain it will turn out that way." The journalists would then write the headline, "Scientists don't know anything about this Covid-19, if it doesn't kill you, you will probably get infected again within 2 months and it will kill you then." I watched this repeat over and over again, here are some of the things scientists (and myself) were very sure of early on, that turned out true, that caused MASSIVE vicious attacks by my friends verbally against me when I tried to explain. Remember, I was correct in every one of these, but was attacked for suggesting it was the likely truth (and then it turned out all of these were true):
The Media Went Silent on Anything that Disagreed with
the Narrative of Lockdowns "work":
Another recurring theme I watched the entire year was that whenever things were going opposite the narrative of doom, the media went radio silent.
The most spectacular example was Sweden and Florida. The moment these two places changed from locked down to open, and stopped mandating masks the media LOVED to pile it on with article after article that they were "stupid" and "irrational" and they weren't doing the same thing as everybody else. However, nothing bad ever occurred. Sweden and Florida had the same or fewer deaths than the countries and states that locked the economy down beyond any rational level. So the media went silent. It was so reliable that if I hadn't seen an article about Sweden or Florida in a while I knew they were doing BETTER than any other region.
I claim this is corrupt, horrible, and the media is abandoning all morals. If and when you are wrong, or the evidence is showing you might be DESTROYING small businesses, and DESTROYING people's life savings and livelihoods for no reason, it is the media's responsibility to report on it. It is their moral calling to point out they were mistaken earlier. It was an amazing silence whenever Sweden or Florida was showing that the lockdowns weren't guaranteed to save you, and the fact that Sweden and Florida provide a "fly in the ointment", a control case that proved lockdowns didn't work as well as everybody had been led to believe. Even if Sweden and Florida did have worse outcomes, it was worth running the experiment. Turns out, the experiment turned out really well for Sweden and Florida.
Individual "journalists" in the media MUST have been aware of this, and yet flatly refused to mention Sweden and Florida as long as their outcome was the same or better than states who didn't lock down. That is so wrong. I find it morally bankrupt. These journalists should be held accountable for being bad at their jobs. They shirked their responsibility to disclose information to our society.
Believing that People Who have to Work to Eat do not
Regarding the pandemic, I am the definition of privileged. I am privileged. I work from home during the pandemic. I have a high paying job as a software engineer, and I did not lose one dollar of income due to the pandemic. My co-workers are the same. Let me make this clear: the fact that my work does not require me to physically interact with people like a person who works in a restaurant or a barber or nail salon was BLIND LUCK. I didn't know a pandemic was coming, I didn't carefully select my career to be able to work from home. I got lucky. My choice to be a high paid software engineer does not make me superior (or better in any way) than people who interact with the public for a living like a doctor, or a server in a restaurant, or somebody who cuts hair for a living.
One of the most repugnant things I've watched is how my co-workers treat people who were not so lucky as us. Let's say the person owns a hair salon. They have put their life and savings and heart and soul into this business, and they do a good job and work hard every day. My co-workers and family treated these people like disposable throw away servants at best, and treated them like they were trash that made bad life choices at worst. There is zero empathy for them. "Just shut everything down" say the rich people gleefully from behind their computer monitors at home. The rich people with nothing to lose then order GROCERIES DELIVERED to their door. That was a human being that just took those risks for them. And they threw that human under a bus, and don't even thank them for their sacrifice.
It is EXTREMELY ironic that I get attacked viciously for this next paragraph. Anybody who attacks me lacks even the most basic reading comprehension. Let me be clear, I'm not talking about being upset at not getting food served to me, I'm talking about HUMAN BEINGS and MY FRIENDS losing their life savings. If you think this is about me eating food then it makes you a HORRIBLE person who can't comprehend basic sentence structure. So here we go: Every single last one of our favorite family run restaurants in California went out of business forever. Not shut for the pandemic, shut forever. You may not know this, but most good restaurants are small businesses - not chains owned by massively wealthy investors. It turns out you can't require a small business to pay rent for a full year but not allow them to run their business to make money. They can't survive that. And these are my friends, and they do a good job in my community. They were thrown under the bus. And they were JEERED AT as "selfish" for wanting to keep their business alive by a bunch of people who didn't have to sacrifice the same amount. It showed a very ugly side of my co-workers, and I will never see them in the same way ever again. Again, this isn't about me getting served food in my place of privilege. I couldn't care less about myself, I WAS FINE. I'm talking about human beings here, good people, my friends, and you hurt them.
The narrative I would hear from my co-workers and friends and family that all had safe jobs was "it's just a job, they can get another job, you can't get another life". That is a repulsive statement to say to a small business owner who spent 25 years building up their business with blood, sweat, tears, sacrifice, and hard times. The small business owner can't just "get another job". They worked EXTREMELY hard to get to this point, and there isn't enough time left before retirement and death to repeat it. Only some privileged ass-clown who has never started their own businesses would say something that insensitive and cruel. A cruel, thoughtless person who never took a risk, never sacrificed, and just shows up and expects the business owner to pay them. That kind of person thinks jobs just exist, and will always exist, and they can just go get another salary somewhere else if the business they work for fails. That "business" is a family who mortgaged their home to run that business to provide a fair service to their community. Those are people that will never recover. So it better be important and be REALLY worth it that people who were safe (like me) decided that business should be shuttered forever, with no compensation for their sacrifice.
Some people have to go to work face to face with other people in order to buy food to eat. If they do not work, they cannot buy food, they die of starvation. They need to pay their rent, they need to work. They want to pay their children's college tuition, so they need to work. I understand some people can just work from home (like me), but they can't. And I understand some people will use the income they make for a 2nd Europe vacation this year, but some people need money to eat. "It's just a job" implies you can move back in with your parents and they will support you. Some people didn't get handed all the opportunities these rich, self righteous clowns were handed, some people don't have parents to fall back on. There was no sympathy extended.
The Government Flip-Flops 180 Degrees Several Times:
There were several absolutely amazing flip flops where either the CDC, or the Federal Government, or State Governments were caught changing a recommendation 180 degrees, to the exact opposite of what they said a few days earlier. One of the oddest things was how most people would defend them BOTH times. Here are some examples:
"Rules for Thee, but not for Me"
There were several absolutely STUNNING examples of politicians getting caught doing exactly the opposite of what they mandated for others. None of them were ever held properly accountable. It goes to a pattern that the people passing these arbitrary restrictions without passing any voter approved laws didn't believe in what they were saying. Or at very least it makes them HORRIBLE and SELFISH human beings - and you start questioning should people this terrible be given ultimate power to decide every aspect of who can gather, who can travel, who can get a haircut. Here are some I can remember:
The Question that became Political:
Do Cloth Masks Help Slow the Spread?
For the record up front: I think "masks work". The main question I have is how effective they are (do they slow the spread 1% or 20% or 50% or 99.9%)? A secondary question is what works better: cloth or paper surgical masks, or N95 masks? And it irks me that by raising this question (which I think is legitimate) that I am labeled "anti-mask". This became political, and some sort of a dog whistle for conservatives or something like that.
I have no problem with wearing a mask, and I did so throughout the pandemic. People didn't have to ask me to put it on, or "pull it up", I did it for several reasons including:
Just one quick note on masks related to virus vs bacteria... One thing that seems to be totally lost on most people is that when they see doctors wearing paper (not cloth) surgical masks, it is usually to stop bacteria (which is large) from getting expelled from their lungs, or to stop bacteria from entering their lungs. Paper masks and cloth masks especially have never been about blocking viruses, which are smaller than bacteria. Covid is a virus.
Ok, with all that said, back to the critical question: how effective are
masks and which types? As far as I can tell, cloth masks are about 1% effective at slowing the
spread of Covid-19, and paper surgical masks are a little better, I don't know the number
because nobody will tell me, but maybe 5%? And the N95 masks are a little
better when worn by professionals and thrown out every 30 minutes or thrown out
immediately if touched by either bare hand. Most effective is probably a
hazmat suit. So to recap in order of effectiveness:
From left to right, the cloth mask isn't very effective, the paper mask is better, the N95 worn by a professional with training and eye protection is getting better, and a Hazmat suit will keep you safe.
Now, what did the research show BEFORE 2019, before it got political? Studies have been done for more than 100 years since the Spanish Flu on using public masking to prevent viral spread, and there is really no evidence to show they work IN THE REAL WORLD (they of course block some particles in the air when you sneeze at them). This was "well established" in the scientific community before it became political. It's very odd the scientific community didn't stand up for science harder, but like me, they just kept their head down and didn't want to cause trouble.
Ok, so we all WANTED face masks to work, and they make sense, right?
Look at the picture below of a man exhaling smoke through a paper face mask:
The problem here is that when you exhale, in face your breath does go through the mask, and some goes out the sides. And some of that breathe has Covid-19 virus in it. It sucks, but all of the evidence shows face masks are not 100% effective.
Here are some articles published about the effectiveness of face masks:
https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/5/19-0994_article - A May 2020 meta-study on pandemic influenza published by the US CDC found that face masks had no effect, neither as personal protective equipment nor as a source control.
https://www.cebm.net/covid-19/masking-lack-of-evidence-with-politics/ - no evidence for the effectiveness of cloth masks against virus infection or transmission.
https://web.archive.org/web/20200818072706/https://www.uea.ac.uk/about/-/new-study-reveals-blueprint-for-getting-out-of-covid-19-lockdown - mask requirement was of no benefit and could even increase the risk of infection
https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2020/04/commentary-masks-all-covid-19-not-based-sound-data - University of Illinois concluded face masks have no effect in everyday life, neither as self-protection nor to protect third parties.
https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2006372 - cloth face masks offer little to no protection in everyday life.
https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.30.20047217v2 - An April 2020 Cochrane review (preprint) found that face masks in the general population or health care workers didn’t reduce influenza-like illness (ILI) cases.
https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.01.20049528v1 - "evidence is not sufficiently strong to support widespread use of facemasks”
http://www.asahi.com/sp/ajw/articles/13523664 - Japanese researchers found that cloth masks “offer zero protection against coronavirus”
https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/5/4/e006577 - A 2015 study in the BMJ Open found cloth masks may increase infection risk.
https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2019/02/01/Millions-in-Japan-affected-as-flu-outbreak-grips-country/9191549043797/ - Japan, despite widespread use of masks, had influenza epidemic.
https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/M20-6817 - The recommendation to wear surgical masks to supplement other public health measures did not reduce the SARS-CoV-2 infection rate among wearers.
Charts And Graphs:
Some interesting charts and Graphs.
3/27/2021 - The chart below shows "excess deaths" in the USA are far FAR FAR
lower on February 20th, 2021 than the same moment 3 years earlier in 2018.
But in 2018 there were no economic lockdowns, no mask mandates, and in 2021
there are. From the CDC website:
In the chart below, it shows "Deaths broken down by Age" (also available here: https://i.imgur.com/DOE4OVw.jpg )
Chart below shows zero children ever died of Covid-19 in California as of 5/14/2020. From https://downloads.aap.org/AAP/PDF/COVID-19 State-Level Data Report 5.14.20.pdf Later there were 2 deaths where there were MASSIVE and HORRIBLE pre-existing conditions and the parents ignored the dehydration in their children too long and didn't take them to the hospital to get a fluid IV to save their lives. I would argue this is child neglect, and not due to Covid-19, but when we are talking about statistically ZERO children it isn't worth arguing about. The point here is if your child is healthy, there is no way, shape or form of any concept to think they can die of Covid, because IT JUST DOES NOT OCCUR. And this is GREAT NEWS, what kind of sociopathic monster wants children to die, or parents to worry? Because parents DO NOT NEED TO WORRY. Also see article about how fewer Children died TOTAL during the pandemic: https://time.com/5929751/childhood-mortality-2020-covid-19/ "Fewer Children Died in 2020, Despite the Pandemic. Experts Are Trying to Figure Out Why". BrianW typing here: it seems pretty clear why. Covid-19 simply doesn't kill healthy children, period, end of story. Meanwhile keeping children out of streets, quarantined away saves their lives. It might destroy their psychological well being, but locking them away saves their lives. It creates a very interesting moral dilemma: should you always do what is physically safest, even if it damages other things like "fun", or "the economy" or "mental health"?
Summary Chart of How Many People Die Each Year of All Causes
2016 - 2.71m people died in the US, total. 
2017 - 2.81m people died in the US, total.  (an increase of 0.02m = 100,000 additional deaths this year)
2018 - 2.83m people died in the US, total.  (an increase of 0.02m = 20,000 additional deaths this year)
2019 - 2.85m people died in the US, total.  (an increase of 0.02m = 20,000 additional deaths this year)
2020 - 2.91m people died in the US, total.  (an increase of 0.06m = 60,000 additional deaths this year)
So between 2016 and 2017 there was a "larger event" than Covid-19, but nobody noticed, there were no economic lockdowns, no panic, no 24/7 news cycle.
The official numbers are that 336,802 people died "from" Covid-19 in 2020 in the US.  but there weren't enough "additional deaths" for that to make much sense.
1 - https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr67/nvsr67_05_tables.pdf
2 - https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr68/nvsr68_09_tables-508.pdf
3 - https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db355-h.pdf
4 - https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db395-H.pdf
5 - https://healthfeedback.org/claimreview/the-cdc-reports-more-than-2-9-million-deaths-in-the-u-s-in-2020-at-least-377000-more-deaths-in-2020-compared-to-previous-years/
6 - https://covidtracking.com/data/national/deaths
extra: https://www.macrotrends.net/countries/USA/united-states/death-rate which shows the death rate climbing every year since 2013.
WHO Flip Flops on Herd Immunity below. From: https://summit.news/2020/12/23/who-changes-definition-of-herd-immunity-to-eliminate-pre-covid-consensus/
"The World Health Organization has changed the definition of “herd immunity,” eliminating the pre-COVID consensus that it could be achieved by allowing a virus to spread through a population, and insisting that herd immunity comes solely from vaccines."
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